Lockdown LGA students lock in HSC ‘First In Course’

By Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, 24 January 2022
HSC High Achievers Sophie Vo, Trisha Shaileshbhai Pathak, Cedric Castellino, Emma Watson and Lovisha Gangwani. Images: Supplied.


Completing their studies during the COVID-19 crisis, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta students have topped the state in five HSC subjects. Determination despite challenging conditions saw strong results at local Catholic schools from ‘hard lockdown’ suburbs right across Western Sydney.


Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director Greg Whitby has been a passionate advocate for students and school communities affected by COVID-19. He congratulates all members of the Class of 2021 on their persistence and pluckiness.

“We’re so proud of the Class of 2021,” Greg said. “They had a really tough time as Year 11 students with the first wave of COVID-19, and went on to spend a lot of Year 12 in lockdown too.”

“It has been very difficult for many of these young people. Our whole community has been cheering them on, and we’re absolutely thrilled to see them do so well,” Greg said.

Cerdon College Merrylands student Sophie Vo really missed “the feeling of the classroom” during lockdown yet went on to top the HSC Business Services Examination. Sophie was attracted to the course by the opportunity to gain a Certificate II in Business Studies.

“Experience is the best teacher,” Sophie reflects maturely. “I felt that the qualification would make it easier to join the workforce as skills are highly valued by employers.”

The course of study led to a work placement at HEQS Group, a local furniture company where sixteen-year-old Sophie was later offered a part-time job as an Administrative and Human Resources Assistant.

“After my placement, they offered me my first job ever,” Sophie explains. “I was really excited”.

Principal Patricia Baker, who encouraged Sophie to pursue the course, said that she was very proud of Sophie, particularly after the very difficult year that students had faced.

“This is such an excellent result from a very hard-working student!” Patricia said. “Sophie really embraced the course and always sought to do her very best in her studies.”

Sophie is planning to pursue a professional career in STEM, starting by studying Mechanical Engineering at UTS. Her Business Services studies will bring a Project Management focus to this vocation.

Parramatta Marist High School student Cedric Castellino was “surprised, to say the least” to come first in Mathematics Standard 2, one of his favourite subjects. Though Cedric describes the Year 12 experience during COVID-19 as a “rollercoaster”, he was pleased to have the chance to go to Year 12 retreat and the school formal as well as plenty of study time.

“My family, friends and teachers played a huge role,” Cedric comments. “They really supported me throughout the journey and I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”

Cedric is planning to do computer science at university. His advice to students starting Year 12 is to make sure that they keep some balance in their lives and use their time effectively.

“I turned to my friends to relax and keep my mind off school at times, balance is really important.”

Maths teacher Shenae Northey said that Cedric had worked really hard for the whole two years. “It’s great to see his dedication and application to his studies lead to this success,” Shenae said.

Parramatta Marist Principal Mark Pauschmann said Cedric is a humble and friendly young man who works well with other students.

“Cedric is a hard-working and intelligent student whose attitude of “just get on with it and plough through” kept him focused on his studies, “ Mark said. “We are very proud of Cedric’s achievement.

St Andrew’s College Marayong student Trisha Shaileshbhai Pathak, who is also planning to study Computer Science, was “super stoked” to learn that she had come first in Information and Digital Technology. Trisha enjoys coding and made the most of the chance to learn more through the subject.

“I’m really glad that all my hard work paid off,” Trisha said. “I’ve always wanted to do something in technology so I was excited and curious to learn more in class..

Trisha was very positive about her experience at St Andrew’s College Marayong and was particularly keen to thank her teachers Mr Robson and Ms Kamali. She also acknowledged the strong support of her family and friends, especially during the challenges of the changing dates of the HSC and Trials.

Teacher Bill Robson said that Trisha had an incredible thirst for knowledge that allowed her to achieve HSC First in Course and complete all the TAFE competencies for a Certificate III in Information and Digital Technology.

“Trisha is an amazing student. She is always seeking ways to understand more,” Bill said. “During lockdown we would email extensively about questions and I would find resources to send to her to refine her knowledge. She was super independent and took control of her own education, had a goal, stuck to it and succeeded to where she wanted to be.”

Trisha’s tips for this year’s HSC students are to keep on top of notes, always ask the teacher questions and for resources and to do lots of practice papers.

St Andrew’s College Marayong Principal Dr Stephen Kennaugh ensured that his students were well supported as the school community worked together to respond to COVID-19. He was delighted by Trisha’s outstanding achievement.

“Trisha showed so much dedication to her studies, really taking responsibility for her learning,” Stephen said. “Seeing her confidently pursuing a career that builds not just on her achievement, but on what she learned from her studies is what it’s all about.”

St Columba’s Catholic College Springwood student Emma Watson came first in the Primary Industries Examination. She is now going on to study Social Science at Western Sydney University, with hopes of a career doing humanitarian work in global sustainability.

“I did agriculture as an elective in Year 9 and 10 and loved it and knew that was what I wanted to do,” Emma said. “I want to continue doing Show Team (where students handle animals such as sheep and cows and present them at competitions and events like the Royal Easter Show) at Western Sydney University.”

The move to remote learning during lockdown was particularly challenging for a subject that is very hands-on, but Emma says it helped that her classmates were a tight-knit group who were eager to help each other and were supported by a passionate and creative teacher.

“Academically, I don’t think we were that impacted, it was more motivational with uncertainty around whether the HSC would even go ahead and not enough social interaction,” Emma said. “Our teacher kept our motivation alive through things like making TikTok videos of the animals at school to keep us engaged. I’m very grateful for that.”

Teacher Nadine Sibbald was thrilled for Emma who is the first First in Course HSC student she has taught in her career.

“It was a very proud moment. Emma emailed me and thanked me when she found out, which was humbling,” Nadine said. “She was always very keen and motivated with the animals and teaching other students, sharing her knowledge. Passionate, driven and really focused. Emma worked hard throughout the whole two years but especially during COVID and came out of the exam really confident.”

St Columba’s Principal Phillip Scollard said the achievement was a great testament to Emma’s work ethic and enthusiasm for a subject she was very passionate about.

“This is a wonderful result for the community at St Columba’s as well as for Emma,” Phillip said. “It shows what a hardworking and dedicated student can accomplish with the support of an excellent teacher.”

St Columba’s is well known in the community as a College that celebrates academic excellence and achievement, so naturally, the whole community is delighted.

Nagle College Blacktown student Lovisha Gangwani achieved First In Course in Punjabi Continuers through Secondary College of Languages The Hills Sport Campus.


Republished with permission from Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.


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